You could call it killing two – actually, three – birds with one stone, but a program that stands to improve national security, bolster American manufacturing and meet the needs of families has more to do with nourishing birds than it does in dispatching them.
What is more, President Biden’s plan to link the new chip-manufacturing law to a requirement for child care stands to directly benefit New Yorkers. Indeed, Albany should be watching.
The Commerce Department made the groundbreaking announcement that any semiconductor manufacturer seeking any part of nearly $40 billion in new federal subsidies must essentially guarantee affordable, high-quality child care for workers who build or operate a plant.
The bipartisan CHIPS Act, passed last year, devotes $39 billion to directly boost U.S. semiconductor factories as part of $52 billion in subsidies for the industry. The idea is to make the United States more independent and less reliant on foreign suppliers – read: China – for chips that power computers, video games, cars and other items.
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Micron, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, a leading producer of memory and data storage chips, is planning a $100 billion investment in a semiconductor plant near Syracuse. It could be among the companies affected by the requirement.
In an interview with The New York Times, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo noted that the rule would help companies cope with a tight labor market in which potential workers can’t find high quality care for their children. Only about 3% of U.S. manufacturing workers are women, according to the Times article. But there should be more.
The focus on child care in the manufacturing of chips should extend to other industries and levels of government.
In New York State, for instance, the Empire State Campaign for Child Care applauds efforts by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature for including historic child care investments and policies in the 2022-23 New York State Budget and legislative session. The group is calling for more in the pending budget, specifically steps towards universal child care. It also wants New York State to stabilize child care providers “who are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.” That budget is due by April 1.
State lawmakers should evaluate how the Biden administration’s mandate on child care factors into its effort to shore up its work force against global competition and, by extension, national security.
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